One year ago today, a very precious friend of mine passed away unexpectedly. She was incredibly sweet and servant hearted. We became friends when I was living in Houston several years ago. When I moved away, we maintained contact through phone conversations every few weeks and in-person visits once or twice each year.
Before her funeral, a mutual friend commented that she wished she would have stayed in better contact with our departed friend, specifically by calling her more frequently. As I listened, my heart simultaneously rejoiced that I had maintained contact with her and sank at the thought of the friends with whom I haven’t maintained contact. I will forever treasure the phone conversation I shared with my departed friend the week before her death. If it would have been one of my other friends, would I have a similar memory?
Methods for staying in contact
Is it really possible to stay in touch with friends from the past? Under most circumstances, I think it is. I’ve been trying some methods over the last few months and I am going to try even more this coming year.
- Send a card or handwritten letter. I don’t know about you, but my mailbox is often overflowing with bills, ads, and requests for donations. I don’t know anyone who is eager for this sort of mail; however, almost everyone I know enjoys receiving unannounced greetings from friends. Why not brighten a friend’s day by sending a quick note or a simple card? Imagine if your mailbox overflowed with these. (Tip: If the cost of stamps is an issue, consider sending postcards because postcard stamps are less costly.)
- Call on the phone. This may seem glaringly obvious, but calling on the phone is typically an effective way to stay in contact. Its effectiveness can be increased by finding a mutually suitable time for a call. To determine this, you can send a text message the week before you want to call and ask when would be a good time. If you call spontaneously and get voicemail, be sure to leave a message. It’s easy to get distracted and forget to call back, so if a friend doesn’t return the call, don’t take it personally. Keep calling her back until you’re able to connect.
- Take advantage of Skype and other video calling technologies. It’s nice to be able to see your friends when you speak with them. Moreover, sometimes video calling has a more personal feel than regular phone calls because you can see facial expressions and other body language. You can also visit with those who are with your friend (like kiddos or her husband). Using these technologies will not use up minutes on your cell phone plan and many of the programs can be used for free.
- Pray for your friends. I have found that praying for my friends helps me stay connected to them. When I pray for them, they are on my mind and on my heart. Is there ever a period of impersonal or awkward small talk when you finally have a conversation with a friend whom you haven’t spoken with in a while? I’ve experienced this before on several occasions. However, I’ve found that if I’m praying for my friend, it’s easier to reconnect and jump right into meaningful conversation.
- Tell your friends you’re praying for them. Letting your friends know you’re praying for them, even if it’s just in a quick text message or email, can be incredibly encouraging to them. It will brighten their days and the brief communication will help bridge the time between more significant contacts. Additionally, it opens the door for them to share prayer requests with you in the future.
- Recognize special days such as birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Acknowledge special days with a card sent in the mail, a phone call, or even a quick text message. You could even be more extravagant and send flowers or some other goodies. Whether large or small, your acknowledgement communicates to your friends that you take notice of the events of their lives and care about them. If your friends know you care about them enough to remember these dates, they may be motivated to put increased effort into maintaining your friendship. (Tip: Sensitive acknowledgment of days that are special for undesirable reasons, such as the anniversary of the death of a loved one, can be especially meaningful.)
- If possible, have an annual get-together. While not always feasible, it is a bonus to get to see each other face-to-face each year. You might travel just to see each other, or you might be able to plan a visit that coincides with some other event, such as a conference you are both attending or the wedding of a mutual friend.
I stated earlier that staying in contact is possible under most circumstances. As much as I hate to say it, the old adage that “it takes two to tango” is true. You may have a particular friend with whom you want to maintain contact. That friend, for one reason or another, may be uninterested in maintaining contact. As much as it hurts, a time may come when you must thoughtfully and prayerfully redirect your energy from this relationship to your relationships that are comprised of willing parties.
What methods do you use to stay in contact with friends from your past?